Green Zones getting new designations, classification

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Members of the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission spent most of their almost three-hour meeting last week reviewing recommendations from the Green Zone Committee.

The recommendations had been presented to the city council by Parks Director Bruce Levine but been withdrawn for further review by the commission.

Parks Commissioner Joel Taylor; Transit Director Lamont Richie, who is also an attorney; former Parks Director Susan Lourne, also an attorney; and former City Planner Richard Harper have been meeting almost weekly for several months to hammer out these recommendations.

In general, the committee recommends setting up guidelines for a 55-year lease agreement to handle situations where existing permanent structures exist on the city's reserved rights-of-way; a lease option agreement; short term surface land lease; and amending the city's ordinance setting up Green Zones.

"The first recommendation is to eliminate the term "green zone park" because it is misleading.

"The term implies a large, contiguous green space area, which is not descriptive of the fragmented, narrow strips of unopened streets and alleys," Lourne told the commission.

"The original purpose for these pieces of land is that of dedicated rights-of-way with public use."

The rights-of-way have been platted on the city map but have not been opened, used or vacated. Many of the areas would not easily be developed as streets or alleys because of the terrain of the city.

The ordinance amendment would set up four classes for the reserve rights-of-way: Classes A and B include those that serve at least one of the public purposes as listed in the ordinance.

Class C includes those that are obstructed in whole or in party by existing permanent structures, but could conceivably serve one of the public purposes either presently or in the future.

Class D acknowledges that some of the reserve rights-of-way are not suited for any of the public purposes listed in the ordinance and should be vacated.

When a street or alley is vacated, the property is split down the middle and adjoining property owners each get half of the property.

The committee's recommendation acknowledges that the time it will take to get a complete inventory of all of the reserve rights-of-way and to get the classified will be a very long and tedious process.

That process should also be part of a comprehensive, long-term city planning process.

"Until that project is accomplished, the reserve rights-of-way must be classified on a case-by-case basis," Lourne said.

The committee also recommends the use of 55-year leases instead of 99-year leases on the reserve rights-of-way where permanent structures exist.

The 55 years would give enough time to satisfy problems with the transfer of title by owners and security interests in the property by third parties -- banks and other lending instutitions.

It is the recommendation of the committee that the lessee be charged $3 per square foot for structures used for commercial purposes and 50 cents per square foot for those used for residential purposes.

Renewal of the lease would be at the discretion of the owner of the structure.

If the city should decide it needs the property before the end of the 55 years, then it would have to condemn the balance of the lease term.

The option agreement gives someone elibigle to enter into a long-term lease six months to have a survey made and a legal description of the property drafted. It would also serve as an application and give the Parks Commission time to determine whether the property should be leased or vacated.

The five-year short-term surface land lease would be for adjacent property owners to use the reserve right-of-way as an extension of their yard or garden when the city is not using the property.

Fees for the land would be 10 cents per square foot.

No permanent structures could be built in the reserve right-of-way.

Any non-permanent improvements would be at the risk of the lessee.

The committee also recommends that before any lease agreement was made that every city department and commission review the proposed agreement and given an opportunity to comment.

In other business:

  • the commission reviewed wording for historical plaques to be placed at half a dozen springs.

  • briefly discussed the possibility of an annual Skatestock as a fund raiser for commission projects.

    The first Skatestock, June 13, was held in Harmon Park to raise funds for the completion of the Skatepark construction.

    Chairman Bill Featherstone said he was disappointed with the low attendance, but felt like those who did attend had a good time.

  • Levine reported the lights for the Lake Leatherwood Soccer Fields and parking lot are installed and ready to be used.

  • Levine presented a very preliminary drawing of a scaled-down concession stand/restroom facility for Lake Leatherwood Fields.

    He said it will be necessary to "get something on paper to submit for the next grant cycle" to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

    He is "shooting" for construction of the septic system and concrete pad for the concession area in the fall.

  • Commissioner David Renko asked to clarify that a location for a proposed "spray ground/park" has not been made. He said local newspapers are presuming it will be in Harmon Park and that isn't the location, as yet.

    The commission's next meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 19, in the Community Center in Harmon Park.

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